What is a moral panic'? What does this concept tell us about crime and criminality? Support your discussion with at least four identified examples of moral panics' experienced in the past.
The term moral panic is a sociological phenomenon, which suggests a dramatic and rapid overreaction to forms of deviance or wrongdoing believed to be a direct threat to society. Moral panics have a tendency to occur at times of social upheaval when people are finding it difficult to adjust. There is a feeling of lack of control and a decline in standards. At these times people tend to group together into a social collective and identify a person or group of persons who can be blamed for all that is wrong with society. This scapegoat was described in Stanley Cohen's 1972 book as a folk devil'. Once the threat has been depicted in an easily recognisable form there is a response from the authorities and politicians. After this the panic either subsides or in many cases results in some kind of social change such as new legislation (Cohen, S.1972).
The phrase moral panic was first coined by Stanley Cohen in his book Folk Devils and Moral Panics (1972). This book was an empirical study into the social reaction to the Mods and Rockers disturbances of 1964. The disturbances took place in Clacton on the Easter bank holiday weekend. Clacton was the traditional meeting place for working class youths from London's East End and 1964 was no exception. The problems that occurred where mainly due to the bad weather that weekend. It was cold and wet and as a result many of the resorts facilities where closed. The youths who had come for the weekend were bored and this was fuelled by rumours that café owners where refusing to serve young people. The result was scuffles between the groups, which resulted in damage to windows and beach huts, and those youths with motorbikes and scooters roared up and down the promenade.